How to strengthen your employer brand when rejecting candidates

It’s time to realize that the experience, even of unsuccessful candidates, can affect employer brand. Your rejection letter can hurt your brand or save it.

Jan Söderström

Recruitment communication is part of employer branding. However too often recruiters disregard this – many times under the guise of haste. In every recruitment there comes the phase when you have to communicate will the candidate move to the next rounds or is the process over. Recruitment communications entail loads of other aspects but in this piece I will only focus on this particular phase.

Employer branding also covers myriad of other things than just one rejection letter but in most cases it creates the last and permanent picture of a company. Studies point out that HR and communication department are responsible of employer branding in general. Hereby we are constantly influencing the picture with our recruitment communications that the candidates will have after the recruitment process.

Candidate rejection done wrong

Candidate doesn’t receive any kind of rejection letter. Terrible mistake. In addition to wrecking the employer brand recruiter does a disservice the herself. The candidates naturally want to know how the recruiting process is progressing; one sends an email the other grabs the phone. Third one is so disappointed that she opens up in social media. At worst causing a real social media shit storm. 

The next and most probably the most common practice is a fixed no thank you -rejection message.

“Thank you for the application. We received tons of good applications and at this point we have to inform that you have not been selected in the next rounds of recruiting process. Merry Christmas!”

OK, well the candidate has now received at least a message from the company and can move on her job hunting process. If the message is well-formatted and sent within a reasonable time schedule (e.g. within 2 weeks from receiving the application) you have managed to fulfil your minimum duties.

Candidate rejection done right

Personalize your communication

With personalized thank you message you can impress the candidates and leave them with a positive memory. If you only have handful of candidates, you definitely should use some time to bring up one point from their application. Candidates will respect you because of this.

If you used video interviews as part of your recruiting process, you already have tool to send no thank you messages to candidates through video. Yes, with video! You already used video to receive applications and it’s only natural that you use video to communicate with your candidates later. This will require some effort from you but the candidate feels she has been paid attention. Video message can be general in nature and you can maybe use it in other recruitments also. 

If you really want to make your candidate experience awesome you should record individual video for each candidate who was invited to video interview. This may sound like intimate and require a lot of work and hiring manager or HR don’t want to do it if not necessary. But when you overcome this feeling and record the video messages you will be remembered positively as organization and as an interviewer.

Give and receive feedback

Provide specific feedback to help candidates understand why you turned them down. Be honest and helpful with your feedback. Start with positive points and try to give advice and recommendations for what the candidate could do to improve their chance of getting hired.

Always remember to ask for feedback from your candidates. By asking for feedback, you show that you value your candidates and their opinions. Listening to your candidates will also help you find ways to make your candidate experience and recruitment process better.

Stay in touch

Maintaining good relationships with your past candidates is important. Sometimes you meet candidates you don’t want to hire now, but you’d consider for positions in the future. By keeping in contact with your candidates on social media, inviting them to your events, and reaching out to them personally when you have a position that would be a good fit for them, you maintain good long-term relationships with your past candidates.

My strong recommendation is that you start doing this in your next recruitment and maybe you will be rewarded by excellent candidate feedback!